The event took place on 19th June 2018 and details and tweets from the day can be found on Twitter @gooddayatwork and using the hashtag #gdawconvo.
This event was focused on workplace wellbeing and the roles science and technology as well as individuality and creativity can play in improving our experiences at work. The speakers were a mix of scientists, practitioners, creatives and leading academics who gave me plenty of food for thought.
Here are some of my key takeaways from the day.
- The event started with the question ‘what if Sundays felt more like Friday?’ I guess the question arises from the thought that workers are often typically meant to feel happier on Fridays as they look forward to the weekend away from work and conversely, less enthusiastic about the start of the working week. As someone who has always tended to prefer Mondays (the prospect of a new beginning every week!) over Fridays (look at everything I haven’t got done…) I understand that most people don’t feel this way so am always intrigued to learn how people can become more motivated about work.
- The first keynote speaker was Matthew Taylor from the RSA who spoke about how good work creates healthy futures. He pointed out the strong correlation between having no work and poor health and wellbeing, and that ultimately it’s better to have any job than no job. He also warned of a ‘middle class tyranny’ that assumes everyone should want their work to be meaningful, and reminded us that when things change it might not always be for the better as organisations can lose their way and good work can be damaged in the process.
- Matthew then stayed on for a Panel discussion which asked the question ‘Does good work mean good health and wellbeing?’ The panel discussed the importance of line managers in creating good work and that there are many ‘accidental’ managers in organisations who are good at their jobs but not necessarily at managing people.
- The next session I attended was a break out session with Jo Hunter from the agency 64 Million Artists who believes that everyone is creative and that this can lead to better outcomes if expressed at work. Jo’s presentation was really compelling as she told us how she had a breakdown at work, caused by her ignoring who she was and what she liked, which led to her taking time off work to rediscover her creativity. She quoted Brene Brown, a research professor, who said that ‘vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change’ and argued that we need to be encouraged to be vulnerable at work as we need to be able to express all of who we are. Jo got us to tap in to our creativity by asking us to pair up and draw a portrait of our partner without looking at the paper. My attempt at drawing Karen Mair from the Walt Disney Company is below as is her portrait of me. I think they are both very convincing!
- The next session was a talk on harnessing financial wellbeing to create happy, healthy employees which started by telling us that while financial worries are the most common concern for employees most companies are focussing on mental health. We also heard that financial literacy isn’t linked with educational attainment. I was interested to hear about the Big Five personality traits for the first time and how JLT Employee Benefits has used two of them (conscientiousness and neuroticism) to map financial wellness (see chart below).
- Tanya Hector from Nestle UK & Ireland presented a case study on Wellbeing Strategy – is it worth the cost? She introduced us to the concept of Return on Value (ROV) rather than the traditional Return on Investment (ROI) and the former is made up of ROI + VOI (Value on Investment). She also reminded us that we need to measure the right things. This includes asking the right questions in employee surveys.
- The playwright and actor Keiran Knowles introduced us to his play 31 hours which is about men and mental health. It was a very moving part of the day and a reminder that mental health issues can have very serious consequences for individuals.
- In a similar vein, Ellen O’Donohue from Movember also talked about men and mental health and described how men are more reluctant to talk, seek help and take action and more likely to engage in risky behaviours. She told us that sometimes men say they have asked for help but they are not getting it and that it isn’t enough just to listen but we have to ask how people are as well.
- The final keynote speaker was Professor Robert Winston who asked What makes us happy? It was an interesting present where he showed us a video of him crossing a ravine on a zip line to make the point that the first time you do something is the hardest and that things get easier and easier over time.
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